A continuation of the Register's series celebrating the Year for Consecrated Life. See also: Sr. Patricia Radek, M.S.; Sr. Mary Maximilian, C.K.; Sr. Ana Maria, O.S.F.; Sr. M. Thérèse, ISSM; Sr. Karen Marie Wilson, M.S. and Sr. Theresa Thanh Thao.
By Sr. Peter Marie Lewandowski, C.K.
When I was growing up, the experience I had of God was through the hearts of my parents. They formed my own heart to not only have the ability to hear God when He called me to religious life, but to also go after Him full force.
I grew up in Overland Park, Kan., with two younger brothers. The three of us seemed to have the capacity to be a part of everything that involved sports, as well as school. We also enjoyed eating, and we did it well together every night around the dinner table.
After graduating high school in 2006, I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, utterly thrilled by the possibility of new friends and football games. During the first few weeks, I hesitantly joined a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Bible study and was stunned to see several other young women a part of it. These women attracted my attention toward God because they asked questions about the people and events in the Bible as though those things were real.
Shortly into the school year, our newly formed Bible study went on a retreat together, hosted by the Newman Center, and it was there that I realized Jesus is real. More than just being an idea that is “out there, somewhere,” I learned from other students my age that Jesus is a Person who seeks relationship.
I was challenged on that retreat to grow in love with God by doing one more thing in addition to going to Mass on Sunday. For that “one more thing” I decided to go to Mass the night after the retreat ended. It was exhilarating to make a move toward God and unexpectedly encounter many of the same people who were on the retreat also at Mass that night. With the Newman Center community, I became a God-seeking missile as I started going to daily Mass more often and learning how to pray. The friends I made through the Bible study and the retreat began to impress upon me the truth of God’s love for me, and in my prayer I was experiencing that love.
The experiences of prayer and friendship continued to grow throughout my freshman year and into my sophomore year at UNL. I surrounded myself with people who wanted to know God deeply, to the extent that they wanted to give their entire selves to Him. Like the heroic saints that I was learning about, my friends wanted to say yes to what God was calling them to do, no matter what it was that He would call them to do. This was daunting to me because it meant that I too had a vocation which implied to me that I would have to be close enough to God to hear Him tell me what that vocation was and that vocation could lead me to become a Sister. I didn’t want God to call me to religious life, and I was terrified that He would. I ended my sophomore year with this battle going on within me of really wanting God, but not wanting His will.
During the summer I moved back home to Overland Park and made a daily routine that was scheduled around Mass and prayer time. It was just Jesus and me. I talked to Him a lot about my fear of doing something as seemingly unreal as becoming a Sister.
In my action of being with Him and sharing my feelings with Him, Jesus responded through His action of being in the form of bread. Though I had received Communion many times, I now experienced Him in the Eucharist in a whole new way. I grew to have a deeper understanding, through looking at Him, that His love for me is personal, embracing of my whole being so that whatever He’s calling me towards will be the life for which He has made me. I heard my vocation to become a Sister out of this personal love He made known to me, and I couldn’t hold back my “yes!”
During the Year for Consecrated Life, you can pray for the religious of the Lincoln Diocese by going to www.lincolndiocese.org/YCL-adopt - Please sign up and adopt a religious community.